Fingers crossed over hotel redevelopment

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

A deal that could lead to the redevelopment of the Portales Inn has those in economic development circles excited about the prospects it could hold for business in downtown Portales.

“We’re just really excited for the opportunity of redevelopment of the hotel,” Portales Economic Development Director Jeremy Sturm said. “It’s going to be a win-win situation for everyone.”

The Portales City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday that sets a real estate exchange in play between the Portales MainStreet board, Western Bank, Don Heflin and local developer Larry Combs that could wind up with the redevelopment of the hotel as well as a set of old apartments on North Chicago.

According to the resolution and a written recommendation report from the city’s Economic Development Finance Review Committee, MainStreet will purchase the apartments from Heflin for $85,000. The organization will then trade that property to Western Bank for the title to the Portales Inn. According to the report, Mainstreet has a verbal commitment from Combs to purchase the four-story hotel from the organization for $50,000 and redevelop the property.

According to the report, MainStreet has also received letters from Combs’ bank saying it is committed to providing up to $1 million for renovation.

While the land swap with the bank moved forward this week with the passage of the resolution, according to the report, Combs will have up to 60 days to evaluate the feasibility of redevelopment before executing a contract.

Combs declined comment on the deal, Wednesday, saying he wanted to wait until the Western Bank transaction closed. Both Sturm and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega were tight-lipped on the particulars of the deal as well. Ortega said it was still in the beginning stages and the details were still being worked out.

“How this all transpired is we were interested in doing something at the hotel,” MainStreet President Danny Woodward said. “The longer it sits there, the harder it’s going to be on everyone.”

Woodward said while the hotel, which has been closed for more than seven years, is in good shape, the time to do something about it is now.

“Most old buildings that sit vacant that long go downhill fast,” Woodward said. “But this is still very structurally sound.”

According to Sturm, a San Diego developer, had been looking to purchase the Portales Inn property from the bank and redevelop it. He was given a year to put financing together but failed to do so.

The developer had proposed to have a restaurant on the bottom floor as well as refurbish the 48 rooms one floor at a time. He was also looking to MainStreet for an incentive package that included extra parking lots and utilities for up to five years or $45,000.

According to Sturm, the parking lot properties were purchased with economic development money for $78,000 with the final payment scheduled for later this year.

Sturm and Woodward both said that whether or not the hotel is affiliated with a national lodging chain or not didn’t matter too much.

“Not in this situation because you’re talking about a historic hotel,” Woodward said.

Sturm said since the Holiday Inn Express opened earlier this spring there have been other hotel chains express an interest in the city and in particular the hotel.

Woodward said he likes the idea that a local developer is expressing interest in the property. He feels the chances of success and preservation of the property as a historic hotel are enhanced.

“It’s the centerpiece of our downtown,” Sturm said. “If you inject a number of people staying in a hotel in the downtown — 30-50 at one time, within walking distance, it’s going to spur a lot of economic activity.”

According to research Ortega has done on the hotel’s history, it opened July 14, 1951, with Gov. Edwin L. Meachem on hand for the dedication of the facilty, named the Cal Boykin Hotel. It was reportedly the first fully air-conditioned hotel in the state. Ortega said the hotel was actually financed by local stock holders. It was later known as the Plains Hotel before the name became Portales Inn.

“We’re trying to stimulate some economic activity in the community,” Ortega said. “A vacant building does no one any good.”